East River Helicopter Crash

Eric Adams via USA TODAY NETWORK

Expert: Harnesses Used In Deadly East River Helicopter Flight Should Never Have Been Operating

April 08, 2018 - 11:39 am
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- An expert said Sunday that the passenger harnesses system used on the helicopter that crashed into the East River last month should never have been operating.

All five passengers were killed in the crash, which happened on the evening of Sunday, March 11.

“The way these people were harnessed in, they were doomed when this aircraft went into the water,” said former National Transportation Safety Board chair and current CBS News Transportation and Safety Analyst Mark Rosenker.

“When you combine the issue of an emergency landing that is in the water; the aircraft turning over, I’m not convinced Navy SEALs would have been successful,” Rosenker said.

Rosenker said it is impossible to believe average passengers would be able to cut themselves out using a tiny tool against the taped and rubber band-strapped harness.

A published report this weekend said well before the East River helicopter crash that claimed the lives of all five passengers, pilots were already raising safety fears about the businesses involved.

The passengers were snapping sunset photos of the Manhattan skyline in the on the doors-off helicopter flight.

The pilot, 33-year-old Richard Vance, had reportedly earlier told NYPD investigators that one of the passenger's safety harnesses may have inadvertently wrapped around the emergency fuel shut off button and by the time he noticed he could not restart the engine.

The New York Times obtained internal documents that show several pilots for FlyNYON, the company that operated the flight, said conditions were dangerous.

One wrote an email to management that said "We are setting ourselves up for failure” by using sometimes poorly fitting harnesses.

But in a January email exchange with pilots who have concerns, FlyNYON chief executive Patrick K. Day replied, “Let me be clear, this isn’t a safety issue with the harnesses,” the Times reported.

In a statement to the Times, Day rejected the notion “that anyone at FlyNYON did not heed issues raised by pilots at Liberty Helicopter” – an affiliated company that owned and operated the helicopters for FlyNYON flights. He also dismissed the idea that the company did not respond to safety concerns, the Times reported.

It is believed that in the fatal crash, the harnesses were too difficult to get out of – with all five victims still strapped into them when their bodies were recovered from the East River.

Police identified the victims as 34-year-old Daniel Thompson, 29-year-old Tristian Hill, 26-year-old Trevor Cardigan, 26-year-old Brian McDaniel and 29-year-old Carla Vallegjos Blanco, of Argentina.

McDaniel was a fire-rescue officer with the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department since May 2016. Cardigan, who was originally from Dallas, was a video journalist who had finished an internship a few weeks ago with the business new site, Business Insider.

Vance was taken by a fire boat to shore and was taken to a hospital to be checked out, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at the time.

After the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration halted doors-off helicopter flights. The order applied to all flights where safety restraints cannot be released quickly.

The family of crash victim Cardigan has also filed a lawsuit, accusing the owner and operators of the helicopter, as well as the pilot, of negligence and carelessness.

(Copyright 2018 WCBS 880. The Assoicated Press contributed to this report.)